The Acts of the Apostles gives us a concise outline of the life of the apostle Paul, but it is silent regarding his death. Several theories have been put forward to explain this fact, and the simplest one says that Luke does not record Paul’s death because he finished the book of Acts before the apostle died. Others believe Luke intended to write a third volume (to complete his first two volumes of the gospel of Luke and Acts) and that this volume would have recounted the death of the apostle if Luke had been providentially enabled to write it. This theory, however, is speculative, and it is probably best to say Luke only gave us two volumes of writings because that is all he wanted to give the church.
A majority believe that Luke did not record Paul’s death because he did not want to give each and every detail about the early church but rather to show how Jesus’ prophecy in Acts 1:8 was largely fulfilled in the first century. In relation to Jerusalem, Rome was considered “the end of the earth,” and leaving Paul there, whether Luke wrote Acts before or after the apostle’s death, shows that the Holy Spirit sent His gospel from Jerusalem to the end of the earth in the apostolic age. We can therefore be confident that He will continue to send it forth through His church until all the elect are brought into the kingdom (Rom. 9–11).
The Pastoral Epistles and early church history make it clear that the imprisonment at Rome recorded in Acts 28 was not the one that ended with Paul’s beheading under Nero around AD 65. He would be released, possibly minister in Spain, and write to Timothy and Titus before being arrested a final time. Yet the imprisonment of Acts 28 did make manifest the reality that the gospel would experience a great hearing among the Gentiles and a lesser one among the Jews for a determined period of time (vv. 25–28; see Rom. 11:1–32). This is all due to God’s sovereign plan, according to His holy and inscrutable will.
According to this same sovereignty, Paul enjoyed a fruitful ministry during his first Roman imprisonment for two years (Acts 28:30–31). God may likewise allow us to experience long periods of outreach that bear visible fruit, but whether or not He does this, let us be as faithful to the gospel as Paul was.
How do you measure the success of your church’s ministry? Are you concerned simply for numbers or for faithfulness to the Word of God? More than anything else, the Lord is looking for fidelity to His gospel, and it is His good pleasure to give the growth where He sees fit (1 Cor. 3:1–9). How are you tempted to compromise the Word in your everyday life? Pray that you would be equipped to stand for the gospel truth no matter what.